Saturday, June 25, 2016

How Did We Get Here? Wisdom Together

Wisdom Together                                                        6/26/16

Proverbs 4, Colossians 1:28-2:7


Solon found himself right in the middle of it.  Before him was placed a political, social, emotional and human conundrum, and failure would mean civil war.  On his left were the wealthy, the land owners, the oligarchy (a leadership group consisting of family heads).  On his right, the farmers. 


Aristotle would later describe Solon as “middle class in wealth and status” (this is one of, if not the, earliest recorded use of the term).


The problem was an extreme divide in wealth and the outcome was debt and debt bondage.  Farmers were becoming slaves in their own country.  Some had their children taken away as slaves by the wealthy to settle debt.  The system was broken, tension was heated and civil war was ready to happen.


The landowners wanted to keep their land.   The farmers wanted to live outside of an unreasonable debt system.  Everyone’s eyes turned to Solon.  What is the plan?


Solon was given the resources and trust of both parties.  They would respect his decision.  Solon cancels the debts, returns the children and land ot those who had them taken away, calls the exiles home and warns the rich that moderation is better than luxury.  Solon then introduces a term:  Eunomia.


Eunomia was the greek word for “the good order”.    This word was born out of abstract thinking, but it also made sense to the people.  This was what was needed:  the good order.


As a result of Solon’s call to good order, classical Greece expands its government to include more participation among a variety of people.  Society was defined by certain classes and phyle, and each of them had representation, and specific jobs given, with those who  were outwardly successful continuing in leadership roles.


Solon touched on something with a deep truth:  that there is eunomia (good order) to society, but also to family life, and the natural world.  Because of Solon, there was now a good order to the oligarchy and farmers of Ancient Greece.  The 6th century in Greece gives birth to a golden age.   Democracy prospers because a good order was defined.


This summer, we will be looking at the question:  How Did We Get Here?  It is a review of the broad themes and values of western civilization.  Last week, we introduced Oral, Pre-Written History, with its lasting gift that life is more than survival.  Today, we lift up Classical Greece, and the practice of Wisdom Together.


Classical Greece, strong from the 800’s to 400’s BC, ruled throughout the Mediterranean, and whose values were continued by Rome when that Empire came to rule.  Greece provided several successful examples of wisdom together, including:

·       the purer form of democracy, that people could cast their vote after healthy debate

·       Heads of families, rather than dictators or emperors, worked together to offer direction

·       The master/disciple model used by Jesus Christ

·       Plato’s weaving together a multi-discipline worldview that eventually became what we call western civilization

·       Continuing the idea that the individual was part of something bigger and more important.


Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.  Wisdom is more than knowing what is right, it is also acting correctly.  We could say that wisdom is using the right information the right way.  The Greek word for wisdom is Sophia.


The Book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom.  This includes individual sayings, but also the background of why Solomon seeks to convey wisdom to the next generation.  Wisdom is for our life.


In Proverbs 4, we have a who, what, why, when, where and how of wisdom. 


Who?  Wisdom is called a protector, someone who watches over us.  Wisdom is referred to as feminine.  Wisdom is someone who seeks to exalt people, to lift them up.  She is a garland to wear around you. 


What should we do with wisdom?   4:13 cautions us to guard her, for she is our life.


Why should we have her in our lives?  Wisdom offers us health, even long life.  She is in our lives so that our steps will not be hampered and our running not stumbling.  We should have her in our life so that we avoid the evil path.


How do we get wisdom?  We are to listen to instruction, to pay attention, to get understanding.  There is a responsibility on our part, and bad habits can make it harder to overcome.  We are to take hold of her words, and keep the commands.  Solomon speaks clearly that getting wisdom will cost us; but that it is worth whatever it costs, even all we have.


When and where will you use wisdom?   Wisdom can be present throughout all the seasons of life.  She will be on our path.  Wisdom is about the matters of the heart.  We are to be wise in our words, to look out for wisdom with our eyes, and our gaze, and to give wisdom careful thought as we forge out paths.  Displaying wisdom requires a steadfast dedication, to stay on the right path, and to not turn toward evil. 


In Colossians, Paul teaches us about wisdom in the church (our life together).  He appropriately proclaims that Jesus Christ is our wisdom, and that we should teach about him and learn about him, and from him and his teachings.  Focusing on Jesus Christ allows us to find maturity.  What a wonderful gift maturity is, it is that good order that speaks to us as created beings.  Jesus gives us wisdom, and the energy to help others find wisdom.


What happens when we find Christ, and his wisdom?  We feel close to fellow travelers.  Paul tells the Colossians that they will be encouraged in love, united in love, and have the full riches of complete understanding.  Are these things that you want in your life?  Do you want them for the congregation?  Together, we are invited to know the mystery of God (Jesus Christ), in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.    Knowing Jesus also allows us to not be deceived, to have a faith that is firm, rooted and growing in Christ.


It isn’t just about being together.  All sorts of groups can be on the same page, and be together in their work.  Our work as Christians is about Christ.  He is the one we lift up, and in doing so, we find ourselves lifted up by old friend wisdom. 


Ancient Greece does offer us one extreme warning about being together, but not being wise together.  Some competition had been developing among the different philosophical groups.  When tensions rise, and accusations start to fly, one of the teachers is brought to trial.  A vote is called, and the people pay attention to the accusations rather than what was wise.  And as a result, Socrates was sentenced to capital punishment.  What a tragic loss that wisdom had been disconnected from the togetherness.


It was Socrates who brought forth important questions for the world to consider:  What is just?  What is truth?  What is good?

Hundreds of years later, across the sea, God sends the answer in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was just, true and good.  In fact, he said this about himself.  He said that he was the way (that is just).  He said that he was the truth.  He said that he was the life.  Life is good.  For God is the author of life, and God is good.


Pray for wisdom.  But not just for yourself.  Pray for wisdom together in all realms of your life.  Pray for your colleagues, pray for your work’s mission statement, pray for the congregation you are a part of, pray for your neighborhood, pray for your family, and for families, pray for leaders, in government and in the church.  Pray for wisdom. 


We can have wisdom together, because God has sent Jesus Christ.  In him is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.



How Did We Get Here? More Than Surviving

More Than Surviving                                                           6/19/16

Genesis 21:8-21, Romans 8:31-39


To the Glory of God.


“We were meant to thrive”

Does life feel like so much of your energy is simply about getting through a day, or a week, or a month?  “If I just get through this…”   Do you feel that you are surviving?  Barely?  

In the beginning of the year, we sought to answer the question:  Who are we?  We are members:  of Christ’s body, and of a Christian congregation.  This summer, we’ll explore the question:  How did we get here?  We will look into the history of Western Civilization, its themes and values.  We will look at how the values of ages long past shape us today, and how they are related to Scripture.

If you are interested in the text beyond Scripture that I will be referencing, it is “Civilization:  A New History of the Western World” by Roger Osbourne.

We start our story with beginnings.  Today, we will look at the era of oral history, history before writing.  One of the great lessons of this time is that human existence is more than survival.

When we call upon what we’ve heard of this time, we might think of how difficult daily existence must have been.  But historians see clues that tell a bigger story. We see a sense of purpose, growth and logic.   For example,

--The cave art speaks to the human need to communicate

--Humans in Europe add farming to hunting and fishing

--there is movement of goods and trade from a large geographic area through the super highway river systems of Europe

--In Cumbria, 4000 years ago, a discovery of an area with enough debris for over 45,000 ax heads.

--in early Celtic Culture:  fostering talented children instead of next of kin for leadership roles in tribes

--the emergence of customary law, rooted in family, where the individual was seen in the context of society, and land was redistributed yearly in order to avoid too much accumulation

It is not only what we know of early history, but what we know of the beginning pages of Scripture, that speak to humans doing more than just surviving:

--In Genesis 4:26, “at that time men began to call on the name of the Lord”, we have public worship

--customary laws seen in Lamech, seeking protection after his law breaking

--the cities referenced to in Genesis 1-11

--the architecture of Babel and the Ark


It reminds me of when I was in Israel, and I saw one of the generally agreed upon oldest structures in the world, some 10,000 years old.  Is there anything good we make today that will still stand 10,000 years from now?

Yes, the work of surviving took more time in the era of oral history than it might for many of us today.  Life was difficult.  And our technological innovation certainly bring a sense of ease into our lives.  But we are made for more than survival.


Abraham sends his son Ishmael and Hagar his mother out into the wildnerness.

 Marilynne Robinson

“This is how life goes—we send our children into the wilderness.  Some of them on the day they are born, its seems, for all the help we can give them.  Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves.  But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water.  Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s I need to bear this in mind.”                 -Gilead, 119


God promises to be present

God speaks to Abraham in his distress

God promises Ishmael’s life a purpose

God guides Hagar

God hears the cries and hurt

God shows the way.


This is a specific story for Israel’s life.  It is chosen today as an example of beginning generations facing difficulty, but also a deep sense of purpose and humanity.


There are special promises from Paul to the Roman congregation, and all to you and I, in our own way, in the wilderness.


God is over and beyond anything else.


(Me & God, Josh Turner song)


As a believer,

          --is God against the one he sent his son into the world for?

          --is God condemning those he has chosen and justified?

          --is God separating himself from his people who go through trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword?



We are more than (Survivors) conquerors through Christ.

Death, life, angels, demons, present, future, any powers, height, depth, anything else in all the creation:  it cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ.


This theme of beginnings passed down to us orally, speak to us old wisdom, the importance of communication and connection and community, the proper place of self,  and the proper mix of local and movement in the grand world,   Life has always been about more than survival.  For all life comes from God.


What can we look back and find valuable for life today?

1.     Many in our world can thrive, not just survive

2.     people of faith come alongside to support those who’s full attention is given to surviving

3.     solving issues locally, and as a sense of family

4.     place surviving and thriving into God’s realm.